Will Indian athletics continue from where it had left off at the London Games? That will be the question when the athletes start their season in the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix at the National Institute of Sports Complex here on Sunday.
Krishna Poonia and Vikas Gowda made the finals and Tintu Luka joined the company of the elite in the women’s 800m semifinals in London. The challenge for Indian athletics will be to avoid going back to square one, particularly in the wake of the numerous allegations of doping among the youngsters, and build momentum towards the Asian championship and the World championship to be held in Moscow in August.
Quite disturbingly, more than 50 Indian athletes are serving suspension for dope violation — the highest number for any country in the world — and the total has been heading towards 100 in the last four years. As a double blow, one of the most outstanding junior shot-putters in recent times, Saurabh Vij who has been banned for two years, faces a longer ban for a second offence.
Of course, it is for the National Anti Doping Agency to crack down on offending athletes, even as the Athletics Federation of India is busy at the moment, trying to convince the Jharkhand government to host the Asian championship after Chennai withdrew owing to the Sri Lankan issue.
Only walkers K.T. Irfan and Gurmeet Singh have booked their berths for the World championship in the 20km event by reaching the ‘A’ standard. Irfan, who had placed a creditable tenth in London with a national record 1:20:21, has returned a time of 1:20:59 this season.
While Tintu Luka has opted to compete in the international circuit in pursuit of the qualification mark and improve her overall standard, many will attempt to reach at least the ‘B’ standard in the domestic circuit. The suspended star athletes in the women’s 400m will be back only by June-July, after they go through their final test before being reinstated.
While, it may actually be a joke that events scheduled elsewhere — like in Panchkula this time — keep getting hijacked to Patiala, robbing the athletes of the challenge of having to perform away from their comfort zone, there can be no place in the country to match the serene setting of the sprawling NIS Complex.
Efforts were on to spruce up the place on Saturday, and the athletes warming up for the event were busy picking up the odd stone from the track and throwing it aside.
Grass was being cut, and the pits levelled, as warmth and bright sunshine bathed the place in the evening.
Except for the cloth banners being readied at one corner of the arena, nobody could guess that a national meet is only a day away, as it all looked like a regular training session, with the coaches monitoring their wards in small groups.
Typically, information was hard to get as there was no trace of the start lists for the meet, scheduled to kick start with the women’s 100m at 4 p.m.
The events: Men: 100m, 400m, 800m, 5,000m, 400m hurdles, long jump, shot put and javelin.
Women: 100m, 400m, 800m, 5,000m and triple jump.